Step Up Your Systems for Success: How to Simplify, Streamline and Support Your Team w/ Teresa Huff
In this 1-hour webinar (with 15 minutes Q&A), Teresa Huff will share with you how to simplify, streamline, and support your team.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, you’ll be able to learn:
- How systems help alleviate stress, mistakes, and confusion in your nonprofit
- Why grant tracking is important
- What to track
- What to set up in advance to make your grant writing go more smoothly
- Things they don’t tell you about grant reporting
- How Instrumentl can save you time and errors in your grant tracking
Create your Instrumentl account using the link above. Save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires with the code GWS50.
Teresa Huff is a nonprofit grant strategist and a grant writer mentor/coach. She has helped nonprofits triple their funding. Over 2,100 students have taken her grant writing courses. She also launched a podcast to inspire others to make a difference.
Instrumentl Partner Webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and its community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing different ways Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Click here to save a seat in our next workshop.
Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.
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Step Up Your Systems for Success: How to Simplify, Streamline and Support Your Team - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone. And welcome to step up your grant systems for success. Five steps to look like a pro with Teresa Huff. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email today, in case you want to review anything from today's workshop. In case it's your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl partner webinar.
These are collaborations between Instrumentl and community partners to provide free educational opportunities for grant prep professionals. Our goal is essentially to tackle some sort of problem that you guys often have to solve for while sharing different ways that Instrumentl's platform can help grant writers win more grants.
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you want to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place, we can help you do that. And you can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link on the screen here. Instrumentl.com/teresa. Lastly, be sure to stick around for the entirety of today's presentation, because we will be offering two free views for everybody that's attended live for submitting the webinar feedback form at the end of the presentation, but we'll go over details of that at the very end.
Now with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm excited to introduce Teresa Huff. Teresa is a nonprofit grant strategist and a grant writer, mentor, and coach. She has helped nonprofits triple their funding and over thousands of students have taken her grant writing courses, and she also happens to host the Grant Writing Simplified podcast.
So we ask that if it's your first time here and you've never attended before, if you have any questions along the way, please include three hashtags in front of your question to make it easier to stand out in the zoom chat. And then we'll try to answer them either along the way in the presentation or at the end, during a Q and A section.
But other than that, Teresa, feel free to take it away.
Teresa: All right. Hey, everybody. Welcome. And like we've talked about, I love seeing where you're from and hearing the work you're doing. Some of these are really intriguing. So thank you for coming and for investing this time. Please, as you have questions, drop those in the chat, we'll be watching for those and we'll have some time for questions at the end too.
So be sure you bring those and we will address those as we can throughout the session. So first, just a little bit about me. Will gave a great introduction and I host the Grant Writing Simplified podcast, as he mentioned, I've done that for a year now, and that's been so much fun. I've met people from all over the world because of it.
So it's been incredible. And I also coach the fast track to grant writer VIP program to help grant writers speed up their level of success and confidence in their skills. So they can ultimately create a bigger ripple effect. And that's why I'm doing it is I can't write all the grants for all the good causes, but I can teach you and then you can go out and help your causes and your nonprofits out there.
So I'm here to cheer you on in your grant writing work today. So just a few fun facts about. I started out as a special ed teacher and then kind of got into grant writing sideways, so to speak, and I love it and the skills really, it might seem random, but actually, a lot of things I learned teaching special ed really transferred to grant writing.
And that's the thing I'm finding with so many people that I work with, they think, well, I've never done grant writing, or I've only worked in nonprofits, but I've never tried to write a grant. They don't realize the skills they have really translate well, whether it's business, teaching, all kinds of different things, you probably have more skills than you realize for grant writing.
So that's why I do this. And that's why I'm here to help you today. And by setting up some of these really good systems, you can also take those skills and put your brain power into your work even better. So good systems helped lay the foundation for that and that's why we're talking about this today. So, oh, somebody else was a special ed teacher.
Yay. So we probably could talk stories here. All right. So question for you on the next one. Have you ever felt like this in your work, whether it's at home or at work, have you ever had a day like this? If so, drop an emoji in the chat and let's see if anyone can relate. I know I sure can. And some days, especially early on before, I really knew what I was doing in grant writing. I had days like this, where I felt like, how can I even keep up? And some of this, like, I would not want to be the guy in the middle with the flames flying past me, but I also would not want to be the guys on the ends trying to catch the fire. And if anybody drops anything, the whole thing is going to go up in smoke.
Right? And we don't want that in our work. So that's where systems can help. So, if you would share in the zoom chat, I have a question for you now. If you could wave a magic wand that would take care of one thing in your life that would just make it so much easier, what would that one area be? And this could be in your work or personally, either one.
What would that thing be if you had just like the perfect system already in place, grant reporting, communication, tracking deliverables, time management, these are biggies that are management, administration, research, all the things, cloning ourselves. Yeah. It looks like we all feel the pain. Right? I know I sure do. Researching, reporting.
Lots of good feedback here. Well, today we're going to get into some of this and keep typing your comments, because I would love to keep hearing. And some of this is just, okay, how can we translate that pain point and maybe actually create a good system? So I hope today will give you some strategies to be able to do that and translate that to your work. Systems might take a little bit of time or sometimes money, but they really are a good investment upfront.
So we're going to talk about why it's worth your time and why you need a grant tracking system, in particular, in different ways that you can do that and what you need to be tracking so that you can number one, save time, but number two, avoid mistakes, and then some pro secrets to better grant reporting that the funders usually don't tell you, but they really wish you would do.
So this is going to be a good one. Okay. I have a question for you. You know, the guess the jelly beans, guests, the number of jelly beans in the jar? Well, this is similar, but I want you to guess on an average day, just a normal everyday work, how many decisions do you think we make? Type your guess in the comments.
Thousands, 300, 25,000, 2,000, a lot. It is a lot. A million. It feels like it doesn't it? Dozens. Lots of good guesses here. All right. I'll tell you, on an average normal day, we make 65,000 decisions every single day. And this doesn't even account for when we're say looking at a job change or health issues or a major grant project that we're working on.
This is just on your normal average day. So needless to say, our brains are full, right? We can all relate to that. And I can tell from the things you've said already, we make so many decisions. And so that is why we need to talk about systems and take time to really look at our systems because when our brains are so full trying to keep up with all the things, we need to remove some of that to where we have more brain power to focus.
And by setting up systems, we can alleviate some of the stress that we're all under from day to day, we can help prevent mistakes, which is huge that as you know, mistakes can damage our reputation, they can hurt our funding, all kinds of confusion and miss deadlines, which can be a really big issue. If you miss a grant application deadline, reporting deadlines, it's all a big deal.
So systems are so important upfront to help you prevent some of these things. It can really take a load off your mind and then frees up your brain to do better work. So the challenge that I want you to be thinking about throughout this, no matter where you are in your career, no matter how many grants you've written, what can you offload to systems to be able to free up more of that creative brain power?
That is what I want you to think about today and be looking for ways in your work that you can offload some of that work to systems. It's kind of like hiring an assistant that we all would love to have. Can you hire a system? And I've done a couple of recent podcast episodes where we talked about this, of hiring the system, allowing the system to work for you nonstop.
And we'll talk about some amazing systems here in a minute. So, first of all, just real quick, we're going to talk about why we should even bother, like we said, it frees up the creative brain power so that you can work on those higher level things that take a lot more concentration. I always kind of joke with my family, but kinda not.
When I'm getting ready to work on a big grant application, I tell my husband I'm going scuba diving. And he knows that means, okay, leave her alone for a while because I've got to go deep. And if you're scuba diving, you can't be popping up to check your cell phone every couple of minutes, or you can't be coming back up for air.
You've got to go deep and stay deep until you're ready to come back up. So for me, if I have too many things going on, or I'm trying to keep track of too many moving parts without a system, I can't go scuba diving and get my head into the grant application like I need to. So that's where the system can help that, yes, I have this checklist. I have these things covered. Now I can focus on the more creative writing and some of those connections that I need to be able to make. Another benefit is that it allows you to hire and train support. When you have a system set up, it's much more seamless to help someone new get the hang of things, learn how your organization works, how things run, how it operates, and it helps make it consistent across the board from person to person.
It also allows for smoother transitions, say someone gets a promotion. Then that leaves their position open. You've got to fill that. Well, yeah, you've got the person still in-house, but they're trying to do their new job. They don't have time to come back and do their old job. If you have systems set up, they can train people to use the system and it's a more seamless fill from place to place.
If somebody is sick and out for some time, if you're on vacation, just any kind of changes. Or if someone leaves the organization, it allows for smoother transitions when you have a system in place. And when it's well-documented how to follow the system. I've seen this work in companies that I've worked with as well. We set up systems because we were all in different locations and they brought me on to help with some of that. And it was like, okay, guys, we're all here. This is a complex process. We've got to make sure things are covered. So we set up a system and it gives us the tools to do our job as well when we have that in place.
And by doing that, then each person is better set up for success. And that's what we want. Right? We don't want people to fail. We don't bring on new grant writers or new assistants or whatever, just to try and make their job harder. We want the organization to succeed and we want each person to succeed.
That's what the system can do. And by having a system, it allows you to really pinpoint where the problem is in this process and what do we need to adjust? How can we fix the process as opposed to just saying, well, we're not winning any grants. What's going on here? I don't know what we're doing wrong. Okay. Let's look at your process.
Is it with the application? Are you always running late on deadlines? Are you not getting something submitted correctly? Is it the data that you're collecting? Where in the system can you pinpoint? So instead of saying, well, Josh just keeps making mistakes. He keeps making the same mistakes over and over, and I've told him, well, have you set up a system that he can follow?
Do you have a checklist for those steps? Do you have that system in place? Because then you can pinpoint, oh, once he had the system he's doing really well, or he keeps missing just this one spot, maybe there's a problem with that spot. Or with that email server or a website glitch that keeps happening.
It's really not Josh's fault at all. So by doing that, you can really hone in and pinpoint where the problem is. And it becomes a much smaller thing to fix instead of just saying, oh, we're not winning any brands. I don't know what's wrong. So you can really see the benefit. So share in the chat what is one system that you've found to be super helpful in your work?
Whether grant writing or just nonprofit work in general or task management, anything, what is one system that you love? Templates? For sure. That saves a ton of time. Calendar alerts. I live by my calendar alerts. I have to have it set to remember to pick up my kid from school every day. So I don't get busy and forget to go get him and not forget, but just run late. Spreadsheets.
I use a lot of Google sheets, Asana, Instrumentl, definitely. Trello. Yeah. I like the visuals of Trello. Lots of good systems here. And a lot of good ideas of how to use systems. So, one thing I want you to remember is to think of systems as an investment in your long-term success. It might take some time upfront to figure out, okay, what's the best system here, or time to document the steps or figure out what kind of system you need to use. But it really is a worthwhile investment to do that.
We're going to talk about five reasons why grant tracking systems are important and then, go into this. Some of you who have written grants and probably those of you who haven't already know, the grants have so many moving parts all the time. There's deadlines, there's reporting, there's data that you have to collect, the program. You've got to work with your team to figure out what's going to be the best project. So many things going on at once. And we feel like those guys back in the beginning that are juggling the fire that we have to really make sure we're not messing up because if one part is broken, it affects all the others. Right. So it's important to each do our part. Systems can also be very important because they affect our relationships and our reputation with grant funders. And that's huge because then that also affects our relationship with other funders. Funders talk amongst themselves. And if you are not following up, you're not communicating well, you're always late, funders talk about that.
But if you are way on time, you are on the spot, ahead of the game, and really on top of things, they know that, too. So you don't want to damage your relationship and systems can help with that and not just funders, but your donors as well. And then your work and reputation are on the line, too. Anybody's desk look like this? My brain feels like this some days. And is anybody else guilty of being an office supply hoarder like me, if you are drop an emoji in the chat. I definitely have always kind of had a weak spot for office supplies. So yeah, if your desk looks like this, maybe we need to talk and have a little organization motivating session and get you some systems set up.
But yeah, good office supply shopping is good therapy, right. And then grant submission and reporting is important because again, working with funders, they want to know, are you good to work with? Just like when you have clients or vendors or anyone you work with, you want people who follow the system, follow the process. And they love to work with those kinds of people. So be the kind of organization or grant writer that your people want to work with and they enjoy that.
Your organization takes office supplies and gives it to teachers. I love that. I think that's probably a very common character trait of teachers. We love office supplies. And then of course the most obvious, your funding is tied to it. Do you have money tracking systems? Do you have the reporting, the goal setting, and to keep track of those benchmarks that you need to be reporting on? Do you have the systems in place before you even submit the grant so that you're already collecting the data and then when it's time to implement, you know what data you need.
You're not scrambling when the reports do, whoops, we weren't keeping track of that attendance, or if we didn't take any surveys, uh-oh, you don't want to be in that situation at all. So I want to invite you to just take a minute to reset. And sometimes we just need to hit pause. We have so many things going on that the best thing we can do is just pause and walk away for just a few minutes.
And I want you to rethink your work, even just take a piece of paper and brainstorm and think, how can we refocus into some better systems that are going to help us use our time and brainpower better? So as we're going through, keep this in mind, how can you reset, rethink, and refocus? Systems really help you.
If you get them set up well, they help you keep your head in the game. And the big thing is I want you to set up systems that are working for you, not creating more work for you. We don't want you doing a ton of extra work just to keep up with a system. The system should be designed to make your life easier and to offload some of your work from your plate.
That's the goal. So as we're talking about this in relation to grant writing, let's talk about what you need to be tracking in your grant writing process. First of all, definitely look for the best matches. And I love this about Instrumentl because when I say the best matches, that's your program, your goals, your priorities, and the funder's mission and priorities. You don't want to bend it out of shape just to fit a grant that's out there. If you have to stretch too far, that's not a good fit. So always make sure that it's a good match. And the thing that I really enjoy is once this is set up, for example, in the Instrumentl system, you have your priorities identified.
It's automatically sending you new matches and boom, it's this beautiful system that's working for you, it's on your behalf taking off that brain activity that you know, okay, that's off of my mind. That's one thing off my plate, it's watching. So now I just click and review the new matches and decide, do I want to pursue those or not?
And it's a really great way to go through that system and let that work for you. So then you can keep working on the best match applications and then always, always as you're going through these, keep your mission in the front of all your decisions, whether it's a grant match, whether it's a system, whether it's a partnership or a community collaboration always, always keep your mission in the front and make sure everything you're doing aligns with that.
So in grant searches, we'll talk a little bit about what you need to be tracking. At first, these are just some of your basic things that you need to look for. And this, if you go through these first, this will help you weed out quickly the ones that are not a good match. The deadline needs to be and if it's not feasible, but it's still a good match, you can put it in your queue to keep an eye on for next year or for the next time it comes up. And that's something I like about Instrumentl because I don't have to even think about it. It just has it. I know it's going to remind me, so I don't have to worry about keeping track of that. It's just there. And then make sure your geographical area matches.
I can't tell you how many grants I have looked at that, oh, this would be perfect. It's the exact mission. The exact type of work we're doing. This is the best funder ever, except it's in Minnesota and the nonprofit's in Missouri. And it doesn't work or it's just two counties over. It's so close, but they won't stretch. So make sure your area works. Look at the requirements and are they feasible? Like for example, are there any matching funds required or the timeline that they want the implementation? Does that make sense for your program? Look at the reporting, just to make sure you understand the responsibilities and make sure you collect the contact information.
I always like to reach out to the funder and just make a contact, get any extra information. And if they'll, if they don't mind, which usually they don't, it's a great idea to just talk to them and talk through your project and just make sure that they can kind of guide you on the right track. And that also helps you be more successful with grants.
Sometimes funders don't even want you if you're in the geographical area, but you're founded in another state. That can be true, too. And that's something that can vary from one funder to another. So that's a good point as well. And monitoring the timeline and making sure that the deadline makes sense. And does it make sense with your project in the context?
Because if you say you're a school and you want to do this during the school year, but the awards aren't until May and you have to implement over the summer, is that going to make sense for you? So you have to think through the timeline and is it something you can plan ahead and maybe get the funding for the next year?
So think that through you don't want to be awarded the money for summer school and you don't get the money until September when summer school's over. So plan that to make sure that you're on track with the timeline and then, make sure another good tip is to look at the historical range of awards.
And here we go. This is something that takes a little bit of digging, which is another thing that I love in Instrumentl system, it's right there. If you don't have the system, you can dig. Just know that it's going to take some time and research to put in, to be able to find some of this. And it may not be quite as readily available, but you can see just by looking at that, the average range of grants that they awarded in the past, that gives you some clues as to what they're going to award going forward.
And you can see if there's been any big fluctuations or kind of what that typical amount would be. So if their average is $4,000, you don't want to ask for $100,000 and vice versa. You want to make sure that you're kind of in line with their typical award amounts so that you're fitting in with what they typically do.
And then I always recommend, it's a good idea to look at past awards as well, to see where they've awarded and how much they've awarded and what type of organizations they are awarding to. I've looked at somewhere. I was looking on behalf of a school and I came across one that sounded promising. But when I looked at their past awards, it was all going to like theater and museum and orchestra type organizations.
And those are great, but I knew they probably were not going to look at this school. So when you dig deep, then it can really save you time by looking at those past awards to look for those trends. Now, if you find one that's a new funder or new to you funder that you want to build a relationship with, and you see that they have funded several schools or afterschool programs or kid-related programs, then maybe yours stands a chance and you start looking them more and more details and kind of follow that thread to see where it can lead.
And then if you have never looked at a form 990, this is a report, a tax form, that foundation’s file. And it gives a lot of great clues in it. For example, it tells their total assets, it tells their board members that you can look at and see, do you know anyone? Does your board know anyone? Do you have any connections there?
You can also dig more into their funding and past awards and where they're based and things like that. And this is a big, long, sorry if there's any tax people out there, but it's a really boring, long document. Then once you learn to weed through it, it goes, you kind of learn what to look for, but you still have to really dig to get some of these key points.
And so this here is a screenshot from Instrumentl's system because they've got it already popped in for you. So you can see this at a glance and then if you want to dig deeper, you can, but it helps you just quickly be able to pinpoint that. And then make sure you're looking at financial data that you look at kind of their average giving over time.
And then this is a comparison from year to year, which can also help, just another way of cross-referencing. How much are they giving? How many assets do they have and how many awards do they typically give out each time? If it's two or three, that's going to be pretty competitive, but if they're giving out quite a few each year, then that might be worth considering.
And then one other thing that I like to track for myself is opportunities that don't fit because I can't tell you how many times I would look up a grant for a client, it would seem great. And then once I finally dug deeper and deeper and deeper, I would come across something that totally disqualified the client.
For some reason, whether it be some requirement that they had to be a certain type of organization or a certain budget or serve a certain population, it's like, oh, okay. So I would look and then maybe like a year later I'd be searching again and come across this great grant and then realize, oh, it was that same one I already looked at.
So if you keep track of which ones you've looked at and are not a good fit, it saves you time later to make sure that you don't waste time going back through those again, just to realize again, oh, this isn't a good fit. So that's one of those time-saving things that can really help. And then making sure those criteria we talked about in the beginning that those are aligned and sometimes you can also come back and just quickly glance through. Has anything changed? Are they serving any other areas now? Have their priorities changed to where it would be a good fit, but you don't have to do as much digging as you would have before.
So with this, always keep your nonprofit's mission at the front, just a reminder. And Will, do you want to stop and see if there's any questions real quick? On some of these? Looks like some good comments are coming in.
Will: Yeah. There were a few questions that I was trying to answer in the chat as well, but I'll, I'll recap them. Nicole was asking: she's a consultant, and she was asking if she should create multiple accounts per client, or if you can have multiple missions under one account. And the answer to that is it really depends on your case. We're flexible to both use cases. So we have some consultants who will have their non-profits create their own accounts.
And then we'll have other consultants that just set up different projects for all of their clients. We'll go into, we'll share some of the reporting features that are really helpful for consultants in terms of providing those sorts of reports for their clients, but just it's up to you as to whichever one you want to do there.
Another person was asking where the data's being pulled from for the 990. All the data is whatever is on the file with the IRS. And so what's exciting about this kind of digital age we're in is that next year the IRS is requiring all foundations to submit digitally, which will be, a big move across the board because it will mean the power of Instrumentl in terms of just parsing that data is going to be even more than what we already do for folks. And so, that answers that question. And then, on the point of your tip in terms of identifying or hiding opportunities that aren't good fits, Kathy had a great call out to the hide feature on Instrumentl when you're working through your matches on Instrumentl, you can actually click the hide button and either hide it from an individual project, or you can hide it from all of your projects, then never see that grant again. So then it's like out of sight out of mind. And you can just focus on the good fit funders for you.
And we can share more of that stuff later on, but, yeah, those are three of the key questions that we came up with during this section.
Teresa: Yeah. Some good tips in there. And I can see where, especially with multiple clients where I've worked with several clients over the years, I've had to have really good systems in place to keep the information straight. Because the last thing you want to do is criss cross your wires between clients. So something like that would really help streamline that and help you keep it straight to avoid the errors.
And so with that, let's talk about some different types of grants tracking systems. What system do you use right now for grant tracking? Drop it in the chat and let's compare notes on what you've been using so far. We've got Excel, Google sheets, Instrumentl, several Instrumentls, yay. A lot of spreadsheets, monday.com. I've heard of it, but I've never used it. Microsoft Planner.
DonorPerfect, project manager, custom CRM with air table. Yeah, that's a good one. Razor's Edge. Okay. Yeah. Keep typing. If you still have more, there are a lot of good ones here. Well, one of the good old tried and true is post-it notes and I've had, you know, in the past I've had notebooks just lined up with post-it notes, all up and down and all my lists, and then it'd be all around my computer screen. And around my desk, we can probably all relate to that feeling of having too many post-it notes coming and going and making sure that we don't get our wires crossed because when we do that, I get so many and then I'm crossing off and then there's still one or two things. And now, which note was that on?
Or I'm not at home and I don't have my post-it note with me, so I forgot where I was and all the things to keep up with. So that can be a big challenge because if you lose your post-it, if it loses its sticky, if the dog eats it, whatever the case may be. I still love a good post-it note, but I've learned not to rely on that for my grant tracking obviously.
For years, I have used a Google spreadsheet and a calendar, and that works fine as long as I don't have too many complicated projects coming and going. And so, the Google spreadsheet, I can show, you know, the grant opportunity. And Will, if you want to go on to the next step, the grant opportunities, the deadlines, any notes about it. And then I can link to that from there. And then I also linked to my Google calendar to make sure that I have the reminders and the timelines and everything set up. However, that is completely reliant on me, updating it, making any changes to it, making sure I get the calendar reminders set up correctly.
Have you ever put the date in wrong or at the time in wrong, and then you're getting the alarm in the middle of the night or you didn't get it. You had accidentally set it for next Tuesday instead of this Tuesday. And so there is just a lot of room for errors with those. And so, it works, but you have to still put in a lot of work.
So it's better than no system at all. I have used it and it's okay. But I also know there are times where I'm thinking, oh, this is so much to keep up with. And then you have to go back and check and are there any changes with the funder and what was that deadline and making sure you have all those things set up.
And then as far as grant searching themselves, you can also keep doing your random searches or talk to people in the community and word of mouth and hope that you can hear about some of your local funders and stay in grant writing groups where people talk about it, that can work, but I've found some of those, number one, they send you notifications a couple of days before it's due and it maybe takes three or four weeks to really crank out a good application. You can't turn it around in a couple of days. And if you do a grant search online, that can work, but you're going to run into a lot of bad fits and you're going to have to do a lot of weeding.
There's going to be a ton of weeds in the garden, so to speak. And you're going to get ads like this is just a screenshot of a quick search I did where there is even a business article about how to write a grant for a food pantry that was just very generic and not informational. This didn't bring up any good fit grants for the client that I had in mind.
So, I mean, this works, it's better than nothing again, but it's not ideal. So then that's where I really love the Instrumentl feature that you plug in your parameters. And it, again, it does the work for you. It offloads a lot of that into the system. That brainpower, where you've had to spend that time and thinking and weeding out it already cuts out a bunch of those steps and just brings it right in front of you.
And then you can see it, it's color-coded. You can see the status, it gives the alerts of the deadlines. So that's where I really liked that piece. And then one of my favorite features about it are the email digests that come through saying you have a deadline coming up, or, hey, we found more matches that have upcoming deadlines that you might want to check out.
And that's one of my favorite things, too, because like, ooh, there were some I hadn't found yet, but those look interesting. And then I can go check out those and see if that's something that we want to apply for. And then Will is going to take a minute to share some of the features and how this can actually work for you. And like I said, offload some of that work instead of you having to do so much extra work, just to keep the system going, this is an example of how the system can really take over some of that work for you.
Will: Awesome. And I know we've got some Instrumentlers in the audience as well. And so I'll get, make sure to give you some tips and tricks, and some folks are asking some specific questions and that way there'll be able to take away some things that they may or may not have been aware of.
So the first thing is for folks that are new to Instrumentl something that you're going to be able to see when you create your account using Teresa's link is you're going to be able to set up a project based off of different parameters of whatever it is that you're looking for funding on. So this can be for the consultants in the audience, it can be for each client, or it can be for a particular program area that your client is raising money for.
But what you'll be able to do is tell us what sort of applicant type you are applying for funding under, and then you'll be able to tell us more about that particular project. So my first tip for folks is when you are going into this second section on areas that your project serves, I recommend that you go specific first and then broaden out later on if you're not happy with your search results.
But essentially I always tell people, choose three to four of the counties where you have impact, for your particular program. That way you're going to get more precise, on the local and regional levels. The second thing is when you're going into your fields of work, personally, I recommend a sweet spot is three to seven fields of work.
And if any of you guys that currently have Instrumentl counts would like us to do a review of your keywords, you can always check in with the chat bubble in the bottom right. And our team is happy to take a look at your project and look for if you've potentially forgotten any fields of work. But as you guys set up your accounts, you're going to want to browse all the categories and then try to identify what is the overarching category for the thing that you are raising money for.
So in this case, this is a food access project. So if I search the keyword food, you'll notice that everything is falling under community and human services. So when I'm creating my project, I'm going to want to make sure that after I choose my first few fields of work, I'm going to expand out community and human services and make sure that I didn't miss anything there.
But essentially, once you set up this search, you can tell us what size grants you want, what sort of funding you're looking for and what you'll be output on is that matches tab that Teresa mentioned. So to answer one of the questions that I think a consultant had for many clients, she, or he might have a number of projects set up in Instrumentl. If you're trying to just look for the ones that have not been previously saved somewhere else in another project or hidden, what you can do in your dropdown is you can go to this filter and then go ahead and uncheck both of these. And what that's going to do is it's going to give you the solely unique opportunities that you have never previously saved or hidden in this particular project.
So that can be a good way for you to work for just one client in the case of your consultant. But something that you'll notice is you'll essentially see all the different information that Teresa's mentioned being really helpful in assessing a good fit funder at your fingertips. So there's a few things that I like to highlight.
The first thing for folks is when you were first looking at this matches tab, you might be overwhelmed because there's a hundred plus opportunities that typically fit your particular criteria. And so what you can do is you can search for a particular keyword phrase that's related to your area of impact that might be related to your project.
So in this case, what I might search for is a word like access. And what that's going to do is it's going to look through those 86 that I had filtered through. The 44 that have some sort of reference to the exact phrase of access. So it's all about thinking about the long-term keywords that people often use in these sorts of proposals that you might often see in the different opportunities that you're pursuing to then filter down even further.
And if you're looking for a follow-on workshop of how to identify these keywords, or you're struggling with that, we have a workshop with Dr. Beth Browning back in March, the replay is on YouTube that you can also check out and watch at your own time. But essentially, when you start working through this, you will start to be able to figure out whether or not they're a good fit funder all in the same place in which the 990 snapshot is going to essentially tell you the high-level giving, the assets as well.
And then you'll be able to identify key trends as well. And this, what Teresa mentioned was some of the new features that we just released in the last few weeks. And they include things like giving averages and medians, grant amounts in terms of figuring out what to ask for and also past grantees, as well as what their openness to new grantees is.
So if you are ever looking for a particular funder and you want to just research them real quickly, what you can do is you can identify trends and then quickly identify whether or not a funder is actually open to new grantees. So this can be a good question to ask yourself when you're assessing good fit, because essentially if, for example, the funder is only 15% new grantees, then maybe you want to focus your time on the funder that is giving new grants to 30% of their new grantees and so on every single year.
What's also helpful for folks that are looking through these tabs is this section on openness to new grantees. So what's helpful here is to look up your past and then see what they've been giving the median repeat grantee, because maybe you've been asking for too little than what the medium has actually been with the foundation.
There's actually a funding opportunity to just increase your ask in a particular year. But essentially, these are the sorts of data points that you'll get with Instrumentl when you are doing your research. And then the second side of things is really going to be on the tracking and management. So every single project has a saved grant search like we just went over. But the second thing is you're also going to have a tracker for each respective project. So a lot of folks in the chat are talking about how they're using a spreadsheet of sorts. This is essentially a more powerful version of that spreadsheet. And it's more powerful for a few reasons.
The first reason is because you can do all of your task management in the same place. So if you have particular notes that you want to leave for yourself or a team member, you can leave it all in the same place as the opportunity, as well as the funder information, as well as do all the task management here.
So for people that haven't explored the task management side, I know this is something that people don't always check out when they're using Instrumentl. So what I recommend folks do is think about going back to Teresa's point on making a system that works for you and try to outline with your team, what are the three to five actions that always are required of us to get this proposal out the door.
So then from there, what you can do is you can essentially set things up based off of milestone submission or reporting, and then set deadlines for your teams. So a system would be something like perhaps having something where you review it with a decision-making matrix in the first week when it's in researching and then later on reassessing whether or not you're going to actually be planning this opportunity and then actually working on the proposal and then reviewing a final submission before setting a submission task as well.
So once a week, that weekly roll-up, that that email digest has, is also going to include all the tasks and deadlines that you will have related to a safe opportunity that you have. And then you'll be able to save documents, too. So this is another feature that people often miss out on as well. What you can do is going back to the point Teresa had earlier in terms of, in the case where you have some turnover in your organization and you want to just make a seamless transition, you can upload all your final proposals here, and the benefit to that is that you will have everything saved in the same place. So if, for example, I have this Clif Bar Family Foundation Grant, and I wanted to start preparing it for next year or something like that, I can save it to a particular project and then I can just choose the year and then just go from there. And it will be saved and show where I've saved it in the different projects.
So you can see here how I have it saved once in researching and food security, but then I also have it in Liz's awesome project as well. And so these are some of the things that you can do, and then on top of that, if you want to import your existing tracker, you can also just go ahead and upload your existing tracker by clicking the add new button and then uploading many. We've got a template for you.
And then our team would be happy to import your existing tracker in here. Here's the reason why you do this. The reason why is because once all the things that you're tracking in that old school Excel spreadsheet or in Instrumentl, all the tasks and deadlines are essentially managed for you. And then you get a once a week summary of all your upcoming tasks and deadlines.
And so that's a big time-saver in terms of some of the administrative side of things. The other thing to note here that people may or may not be aware of is when you're in this researching tab this is like a shortlist of your matches. So anything in this researching tab is going to have auto rolling deadlines so that if you don't move it out of the researching stage, we will continue to look at the next funder deadline for you to make sure that you know, like, that this is an opportunity that you can actually pursue.
So if April 30th comes around in 2022 and you haven't actually moved this outside of researching, Instrumentl will automatically roll that to the 2023 deadline. And so the concept here is that you will always be able to have a shortlist of opportunities that you can start to pursue. And the last thing I'll go over is just downloading reports.
This is something that's really easy in Instrumentl as well in the case where you're a consultant or you're reporting to a board of directors, and they're asking you, "Hey, what are you going to do? Or what are you doing right now in everything you're research?" You can quickly pull a report for that. You can even give them the three-year timeline and you've got a PDF and CSB ready for them to attach an email and whatnot.
I've got a couple of questions, so I'll tackle them real quickly before turning it back over to Teresa. In terms of the link. Yeah. Teresa's link is going to give you a two-week trial of Instrumentl where you'll be able to check us out. It's typically more than enough time in terms of assessing whether or not it's going to work for your organization.
And what you'll be able to do is set up a search for your own organization and then get personalized grant recommendations from there. Darren asked how to access the openness to new grantees tab. In the case where you're an existing Instrumentl customer, we are going to be releasing this in a full on Standard Plan launch.
Every existing customer will get a free trial of these new features, but it's part of our Standard Plan. And then all new accounts that are trying us out, get the Standard Plan by default. So you should get that openness to new grantees access as well. Can you use Instrumentl to track and task manage your own donor base? We don't focus on individual donors. We focus specifically on the institutional fundraising side of things, so everything around grants themselves in the grant-seeking process, as opposed to individual donors.
In terms of getting help on your keywords, if you ever need help, you can shoot us an email at [email protected] or this bottom right chat bubble. You just click this guy. And then what you're going to do is you just send us a message and then Amelie, she sees hundreds of these projects every single week. She will give you personalized attention to make sure that you are covered there. Ryan asked if Instrumentl has information about local, state, and federal government opportunities.
We do, actually. So when you're in your matches tab, you're going to see this option in your filter for all the different types of funders related to your project. So you can see here with this environment project, I have association in societies, corporate, federal, as well as private and I can even filter down based off of that.
So, all of those are there including our opportunities and things like that. If you're a consultant and you work with multiple clients, you can allow them to just see their product versus other clients. We don't currently have that feature. What consultants will typically do is they will generate your report and then they'll send it via weekly or monthly reports via that PDF that I shared with you.
So those are some of the key questions. Feel free to keep coming, keep adding those questions in, in the chat. But other than that, I'm going to hop back into the presentation and then we'll dig through the rest of the presentation. See here.
Teresa: All right. So yes, one of the big things that I tell my fast track to grant writer students is to set up a system that you will use. Because when you're looking at systems, you're trying to figure out how should I keep track of this? Should I use Trello? Should I use Instrumentl? Should I use Basecamp or one of those systems, the best one is the one that you will use.
And so sometimes you do have to just test drive them like Will was saying, just give it a shot and see how you like it. You got two weeks to try it, poke around and see, and that's the best way to learn is to learn the system and actually give it a shot and see what you think and compare that to what you're doing now.
So now I had promised you that we were going to talk about four secrets of grant reporting that you can check out and start implementing these with funders, because these are things that I have found funders generally won't tell you, and maybe they haven't even realized it themselves, but after years of helping nonprofits with grants and with the reporting, these are things that funders love.
So first, the first secret is kind of a challenge and this sort of comes from Seth Godin. If you've heard of him and some of his business concepts of how can you surprise and delight the grant funder? Seth Godin talks about it in the context of your customers. How can you surprise and delight your customers?
But I like to spin that, how can you surprise and delight your funders or even just your donors along there, and then. So think about that and always be keeping that in mind, whether it's with your application on the front end with your interactions with them, or if it's with your reporting on the backend, which is what we're specifically talking about here, but always be thinking of that.
How can we surprise and delight them? And part of the reason for this is secret number two, have you ever, do you ever have that friend or that family member that is always sending you negative stuff? Like they're the one always texting you, oh, such and such is broken. Oh, I'm running late. Oh, guess what? I've got bad news.
Like they just always, and you're always like, okay, what now, when you hear from them, don't be that non-profit, or don't be that person in their life. See what you can send that is happy and fun. And then when you do have the negative things or the problems, then you can come back to them and say, okay, we had this, but it's not like you're always only reaching out when there's a problem or when you need help or when you need more money, think through how you can do that.
How can you surprise and delight them? And one way is to send fun updates, even when it's not asked for. They're probably going to have certain reporting timelines that you absolutely need to follow, but why not drop them a little note in between? Send a client testimonial or tell them a story about how it really impacted the work you're doing and maybe even drop them a handwritten note.
Send photos or videos. I have a nonprofit client that we had won a grant for some exercise equipment for a senior center. And the news came out. The local news station came and did a little video and a clip and they played it on the news. And that was so moving. It almost brought me to tears because these older people were just saying, oh, I love this exercise program.
I just love coming to class. I feel so much better. I'm 90 years old and I can't wait to get up and go in the morning. And it's because of this class. And that was because of the funder and the equipment they had bought and the impact it was making. So that was such a powerful way to really show appreciation and to show instead of just telling.
And then when you do that, tag them on social media, funders love to be recognized. They love to show the good they're doing in the community. It's good publicity. And it shows that you have that relationship. It also shows that your non-profit, somebody thinks you're worth investing in. So make sure that you are showing that and just creating that sense of community there and showing that appreciation publicly, publicly, and then secret number three, always be thinking ahead of what's coming up.
And if you know that, okay, we're going to implement this grant program. Then if we're awarded these funds, what data do we need to start tracking now? Don't wait until the grant's awarded and then we're scrambling to put the program into place. And then we've got to figure out, oh, we need to collect data, but there's only two months left.
That's not going to be much data to be able to have. Start now, okay, we want this program. What can we still be tracking? Maybe we don't have the money yet, but we can still be tracking attendance. How many clients, what the conditions are like now. We can be taking surveys of how things are going. Then you can do those surveys again to show the impact that it made.
And you can work that into your application as you're writing it. And then that way you can also include it in the reporting. So you're not trying to just figure out what kind of data do we need? What do we have? We really don't have any, because it's a new program. How can you design it with that in mind? So think long-term, think ahead. And what can you be doing in advance so that you do have the data you need when you need it for the reports and the application?
And finally, secret number four, a lot of nonprofits are afraid to do this, but tell them the challenges, too. And this is okay. They know that life is not perfect. That pandemics happened. Apparently we all know that now, that issues come up, sometimes building projects are delayed. They know that things happen. So keep them informed. Keep them up to date and be proactive about your updates. Don't hide it under the rug and think, well, maybe they won't notice or maybe we'll figure it out and then they'll never have to know.
And then it just snowballs and becomes a bigger and bigger problem that really is too late to be fixed. Instead, I want to challenge you, think about that differently. Be up front with them, let them know what's happening and what the challenges are and let them be a part of the solution of helping you figure out, okay, this piece is not working.
We need to figure out how to adjust it and they would most likely be happy to help you. Maybe it means requesting to shift the funding a little bit, or maybe it means, okay, next year, could we expand this program or could we adjust it somehow? So think that through and think how they can be a part of helping you figure that out.
So key take away, be proactive when you're building relationships with funders. Don't wait for them to just send out the requirements and you meet the requirements. Be proactive. Back to that question. How can you surprise and delight your funders? So again, let's recap those learning takeaways to make sure we drive those home and make sure we have those in place.
Number one, systems are a good investment. They're a long-term thing. So by taking time to set up systems, you're really helping yourself long-term. Take time to pause. Remember those three Rs. I have to remember what they were -- reflect, refocus, and what was my third one? Reset, rethink, and refocus. Those three Rs because they help you keep your head in the game long-term and it's really worthwhile to make sure you have put the time into that. And they may need to be adjusted as you go. Sometimes you need to revisit if a system is no longer working or if you've grown and you need a better system, kind of like how I outgrew my Google spreadsheets and needed to step up to something that was going to work for me a little more.
So think through your systems, always, always keep your mission in mind and keep that first. And then number four, the best system is the one you will use. There is no number one perfect system for every organization everywhere. The best one is the one you'll use and that works for you. And then be proactive when you're building your relationships and work that into your system, make that a part of your process each time, each grant, each funder, just make that a natural part of your process so that it's not a big deal.
This is just how you interact with funders. So I want to leave you with three challenge questions today. Number one, I want you to think about what grant-related tasks can you offload to systems, and then you can even broaden that to your everyday work, but specifically what grant-related tasks do you need to be offloading so you can free up that creative brain power. And number two, what can you specifically do to proactively build relationships with grant funders? Because again, that's an investment in your long-term success with your nonprofit. And then question number three, what would that make possible for you by doing those two things?
So I want you to take some time to reflect on those. And I love, love connecting with people and hearing about the work you're doing. I love hearing about nonprofits and the missions that you are working on. And I love working with grant writers. So I would love to have you connect with me on LinkedIn or send me a message and just drop me a note about what you're doing and let's just start the conversation.
Let's just keep it going because I love to see your work in the community and how it's growing. And please listen to the podcast and make sure we've had some really great series lately. I interviewed Gauri with Instrumentl a couple of weeks ago, and then I've been talking about systems. So there's a lot of good information for nonprofits and also for grant writers specifically, too.
So make sure you check that out and then of course, give Instrumentl a test drive because you need to try it out and poke around for yourself. And one thing, too, that I love that they do is they assign you the onboarding advisor that Will had mentioned, they will give you a tour. They will help you set up.
They'll help you figure out those terms and which ones are the best for your nonprofit. So it's not just a, here you go. Try the system. Here, let's help you use the system successfully. So I love that about it. So please connect and then Will is going to share a couple of freebies that we have of some tools that will make your grant writing and searching easier for you and take a load off of there.
Will: Yeah. So for everybody that's in the zoom chat right now, I just put in the freebie link and pretty much what you're going to do is you're going to click that link. When that link is clicked, you'll get to this page. That'll thank you for attending. Here you can create your Instrumentl account if you don't already have one with Teresa's link. You can submit the webinar feedback form, and you can also share what you learned on LinkedIn.
And once you submit this form, you'll be redirected to get your two freebies, which I'll go over in the next slide, which is we've actually got, 20 grant funder tips for success from Teresa and Instrumentl, just released a new ultimate go versus no-go grant RFP evaluation tool. So for those of you who have been struggling with identifying what's a good fit funder, what's not a good fit funder, our team put together a 40-page guide with printable templates that you can kind of run through each different opportunity on, to then gut check yourself. And so it can be a great way to either stress test your existing decision-making matrix, or it can be a framework for you to start using one when you're deciding which opportunities to pursue.
If you guys enjoyed this workshop as well, our next one is next week, actually. So we're not taking a two-week break. It's going to be right next week. We're gonna be talking about getting started with government grants as well. So you can check out the registration for that. I know we're a little over time, so if there are any questions I'm happy to start moderating those.
I know we've answered quite a few of them during the session as well. Other than that, yeah, that's how you can access the freebies. Just check out that zoom link that I've posted there. And it'll also be sent in the follow-up replay. So, if you have any questions, feel free to chat them in. We'll take a couple, and then we'll wrap things up from here.
Teresa: While we're waiting for questions. Anyone have a system that you already have in mind, you need to set up or that you need to think about and reevaluate. Sometimes it's worth just spending a few minutes to think through. Oh, yeah, I do that every time and I have to look it up and I have to go back and enter the information. Maybe I could set up a system for that. Anyone have any of those?
Things to track in grant projects. Definitely, you mean as far as the implementation or when you're writing the grant, do you have a specific system that you're referring to or just in general?
I'll try to answer in general. So in grant projects, of course, you need to talk about the timeline and the application piece that we talked about, but then on the implementing side of it, make sure you are implementing according to the grant, the way you presented it and how it was approved in the application.
So if they funded the project, as you had it outlined, then you need to make sure you're tracking those timelines that you had outlined in the application, the goals, the metrics, and just use your application as a guide for the grant project itself, who needs to be implementing, what do you need to be implementing? What kind of program? Definitely make sure you're tracking the budget to be sure you're tracking everything that is spent for the grant money and everything that comes in related to that. So be tracking that carefully and designated separately from your usual funds and just all those ins and outs of that, and then keep track of your goals and objectives of what you need to be tracking on that project, to be sure you're collecting the information and then reporting on those when you need to.
Is there a way to identify a foundation that offers startup grants. Will, do you want to speak to that one with Instrumentl specifically?
Will: I can say that in general, what I actually tell folks is to not, what generally we tell folks is if you're looking for startup grants, it's better to actually stabilize your nonprofit before you pursue grants. Being grant-ready is really important. And in just enough conversations we've had with foundations, they typically aren't going to be allocating a significant amount of funds to new nonprofits. And so what we say on, in terms of good fits for instrumental our 501 c3 status and at least 90k in operating revenue, if you're earlier than that, there are potentially some opportunities out there, but it'll be very challenging for you just because the foundation also wants to be funding, sustainable initiatives typically. And so I can't say that we are a good fit in terms of being able to set that search up for that particular person.
Teresa: I agree with that. And I've done a couple episodes on grant readiness, specifically of certain benchmarks like you had mentioned that you really need to look at before you're ready for grants. And there are other areas where it's a better use of your energy and resources if you're starting up, as opposed to looking for grants, start with your funders and your donors and getting that core group in place, getting a solid board, start with that inner circle and then build out from there to get diverse funding sources. And then you can move into grants down the road.
Will: Awesome. Joe, I sent you a direct message. I got a direct message from Joe, one of our customers as well, Joe, feel free to take this offline at my email's [email protected] Happy to investigate that for you in terms of whatever question you had. I'm not sure if we'll have enough time to cover it in this particular call, but I'm happy to do that.
Darren, in terms of international grant search capabilities. Absolutely. So as long as you have 501 c3 status in the United States and 90K operating revenue even if your impact is international, you can actually set your project area's impact to whatever international area that you're impacting and we will search for that.
So what's also unique about us compared to some other tools is that some other tools will just group international altogether, whereas you can actually filter it by country on Instrumentl as well. So if you are. Yeah. If you are, if you're setting something up there, you can do an international grant search there, as long as you have that 501 c3 status in the United States as well.
And like Teresa mentioned, she has a ton of great content in terms of systems. So if you felt like this was a great primer for systems, there's a ton more episodes on her podcast where she's been talking about systems as well. Our last workshop with Tiffany Nobles, which is also available on YouTube, also covers different topics on systems.
So if you'd like to see another hour of a grant educator talking about their particular systems, then you can kind of compare notes from there and build your own system from there. That'll work for you as well. Cool. Well, we're going to go ahead and wrap things up. This replay will be available shortly. I'm going to be working on that right after this. And then we'll go from there and I'll catch you guys in the next workshop. Thanks, everybody.